The personal representative to an estate has a complex job, and it can take several months to do everything necessary to close a probate estate. However, if they are refusing to answer your questions, risking the assets of the estate, or aren’t performing their fiduciary duties, you may request that the personal representative have their representative’s letters revoked.
Legal Reasons a Personal Representative May Be Removed in Florida
There are many different ways a personal representative may fail in their duty to the estate, but the Florida Probate Code only recognizes certain reasons for removing a personal representative. Conflicts or arguments (i.e., not liking each other) between the family and representative are not sufficient reasons for removal. The court will only consider removal if the personal representative is unfit for duty and that the estate is at risk.
Under Florida Statute 733.504, beneficiaries may petition the court for removal of a personal representative who:
- May be incapacitated and requires adjudication from the court
- Has a physical or mental incapacity that makes them incapable of discharging their duties
- Has failed to comply with any order from the court (that has not been superseded on appeal)
- Has failed to account for the sale of property or produce the assets of the estate when requested
- Has wasted or performed poor administration of the estate
- Has failed to give bond or security for any purpose
- Was convicted of a felony
- Is insolvent (including corporate personal representatives who have appointed a receiver or liquidator)
- Has, had, or will have conflicting or adverse interests against the estate that could potentially interfere with the administration of the estate as a whole (Note: surviving spouses cannot be removed for this cause due to their right to the elective share and family allowance)
- Was designated as personal representative to the estate in a Will that has been revoked
- No longer lives in Florida (if residency was a requirement of the initial appointment)
- Is no longer entitled to appointment as personal representative
How to Convince the Judge to Remove a Personal Representative
Firstly, only “interested persons” to the estate can petition the court for removal. This includes beneficiaries, heirs, creditors, and certain other parties. If you have no connection to the estate, then you don’t have legal standing to seek the removal of its personal representative.
Once you have established your standing, you may:
- File a document called a Petition for Removal in the probate court where your loved one’s estate administration is taking place. You must also serve your petition to the personal representative. This is the beginning of a lawsuit called an adversary proceeding.
- Build your case. The legal process is similar to that of other lawsuits. Both your estate litigation attorney and the personal representative’s attorney will begin the discovery process, take depositions, and exchange documents. You will need to present testimony and compelling evidence to support your claims against the personal representative.
- Attend the hearing. If the personal representative refuses to alter their behavior or comply with previous requests made by the family, the probate judge may hold a hearing to listen to the evidence. The judge may agree to remove the representative (and potentially order the representative to pay damages), deny your request for removal, or set a date for the lawsuit to proceed to trial.
- Discuss settlement options. Before arguing the matter in court, your attorney may work out a deal that satisfies both parties. For example, the personal representative may agree to step down or entrust an attorney with the job of closing the estate.
- Prepare for trial. If the personal representative has been accused of intentional wrongdoing or criminal actions, they may fight against the charges by going to trial. With so much at stake, it’s vital to have the right estate litigation attorneys by your side.
If the personal representative to your family’s estate is incompetent, neglecting their duties, or misusing the estate’s assets, the attorneys at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis can help. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.